A long time ago Gavin McInnes got in trouble for saying feminism has made women less happy because they are forced into careers and women fundamentally do not want careers. In January there was a national controversy when I talked about career women versus family women. People get very riled up when you talk about women’s roles, even when their behavior is not specific to women.
I think a big career can be very exciting and fulfilling to a certain kind of person — one with enough privilege to conceivably get one. But I don’t think most women want a big career, or much of a career at all. It’s not a gendered thing, I don’t think most people would choose a busy career if they had a choice. And — women do have a choice.
Ask a group of people, “would you rather be independently wealthy or work for the rest of your life?” More people will choose not working than working because working is work. That’s why someone has to pay you to do it.
Men don’t have another option, they have to provide for themselves as well as a family, this is how we raise them. But women always have a choice in the back of their minds. They can have a career themselves or they can marry someone with one and be in a financial position where they don’t have to be a star in their career, or they can work in an industry that pays very poorly but gives you the warm fuzzies (like teaching or social work), or they can work part-time, or they can be a stay at home mom/wife.
Of these options, having your own career is only appealing if you are the kind of person who can get one in the first place. For instance, if you
want to have kids, you need to be wealthy or marry a stay-at-home dad or else a big career is not going to happen.
For other women the cost of working — doing unfulfilling work for 40 hours a week without ever being as recognized as people who make career their priority, paying for childcare, coming home only to do more childcare and household management work than you partner — far outweigh the benefits of your paycheck. So why do it? Unless you make more than 40k it’s a wash with paying for childcare, which means a woman working and earning $50,000 only brings in $10,000 of income when you consider the cost savings of having a parent stay home with kids. (Men don’t have to make this choice because they do not, in massive numbers, do the primary child raising and house-maintaining the way women do).
Is it worth it to spend 40 hours a week working for $10,000? What rational person would choose a career when that is your reality?
Working a fulfilling but low paying job or working part-time or not working at all are popular choices for women because of the luxury that they can be a choice. It’s the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: self-actualization. Only after the money needed to take care of our basic needs exists would any rational person then progress to choosing options based on what makes them feel fulfilled.
It’s annoying when people talk about “women’s problems” when what they are really talking about are “human problems.” Everyone struggles with finding meaning in life. Everyone struggles with balancing things they need to do with things they want to do. When presented with a completely rational dilemma (how do you want to spend your time knowing you don’t have to have a big career?) women answer it the way anyone would in their circumstance. Women don’t make these choices because their biological makeup is different from mens, they make them because they make the most sense for any human to make.
If we all had the luxury to, we’d spend our money doing something that felt fulfilling, that gave a big juicy answer to the why-am-I-here question. We all know making a lot of money isn’t the answer unless it’s just the result of doing something you love to do anyways. Raising kids is a very accessible answer to this question.
Rather than viewing only 22% of CEOs being women as a failure of feminism, can’t we consider it a success? What percent of CEOs are happy, fulfilled people? Women have choices men don’t — to make decisions based on fulfillment rather than survival. Making choices that aren’t lucrative are an attempt to live life on the terms of personal fulfillment rather than survival, which is what you should do if you ever find yourself in the position that you’re able to make a choice.